FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH – February edition 2018, No 38.
I hope 2018 has started well for you. On the 17th of this month I will hopefully be celebrating twenty years abstaining from alcohol – drinking when I was ill and on medication was certainly a bad idea and caused me many problems!
In this edition, there are three entertaining short stories and news of our new competition. Anyone can contribute to this publication in a positive, non-racist and non-offensive fashion – please send your stuff to us at: email@example.com thanks, Dean.
MY NOT VERY SERIOUS STARS
Scorpio 24 Oct – 22 Nov
An old man with a black stick will amaze you with his rudeness this month. A goldfish would make you a great companion at this time in your life. Inclement weather may hinder your efforts to improve the outside of your home. A man or woman of the cloth may be needed for an event you are planning this year, so make sure you approach them early-doors.
Sagittarius 23 Nov – 21 Dec
You may feel inadequate this month – but this is normal as you are very inadequate in many ways. An email may arrive that brings a smile to your face. You will realise that you have a book in you, but this will not write itself, whilst you are down the pub every night. Eat more sweet corn out of the tin. A heart- to-heart conversation may save a valuable relationship.
Capricorn 22 Dec – 20 Jan
It would be worth getting a pet dog if you are feeling lonely at the moment – but be prepared to clean up after it! Your greatest asset at the moment is your health, so do cherish it. This month you may realise you are indeed as stupid as you thought you were. A trip to China would be a good idea and broaden your tiny mind.
Aquarius 21 Jan – 19 Feb
Someone in a black ‘T’ shirt will make you feel happy this month – if only for a short time. If you are trying for a baby then cut out alcohol now – you will enjoy having no more hangovers if nothing else. Why not consider rearing pigs if you really don’t like your neighbours. You may suffer from backache this month.
Pisces 20 Feb – 20 Mar
A nosey old woman may try and poke her nose in your business, but do appreciate the fact that she may have little going for her and need to feel involved. It is a good time to try some Middle-Eastern food as you may find you like it. If you left school early, now might be the time for you to experience university life as you are never too old to learn.
Aries 21 Mar – 20 Apr
If you are an arrogant, pig-headed husband who constantly complains about his life, then now is the time to give some thought to how much your wife actually does for you. If you don’t have an addictive personality, then a glass of wine every day may do you some good. Try and change the world around you – for the better.
Taurus 21 Apr – 20 Apr
A few very large pieces of extremely fattening cake may be just what you need this month. Your craving to be famous will never be satisfied, so be more realistic about your life and appreciate what you have. A good time to stop biting your nails as the anxiety you have been experiencing will diminish this month. It is a good time to propose to your lover.
Gemini 22 May – 21 Jun
This is the perfect time to grow a beard – if you are an older woman. Saturn’s ascent will be mean you are more likely to be caught shoplifting if this is what you’re into. Animal welfare may suddenly seem important to you and make you look more closely at your diet. A bald man may impress you with his get rich scheme – but do be careful.
Cancer 22 Jun – 23 Jul
You must decide how honest you want to be with an old friend i.e. you must decide whether to tell them some home truths or just keep your mouth shut and not rock the boat. A bad cold may impede you this month, but don’t milk it as people will soon get fed up of you. It is a good time to start to act in a more ethical way.
Leo 24 Jul – 23 Aug
Your children may pester you to get them a pet but be aware who will end up feeding it and cleaning up after it! Someone will ask you to write lots of mock horoscopes and you will realise how difficult it can be to write them! A close friend will let you down this month but you will find it in your heart to forgive them. Be nice to a stranger.
Virgo 24 Aug – 23 Sep
This month you will realise your child is not a genius after all, so start to be realistic about their future. A goat may stare at you in such a way that you realise you are extremely ugly and very lucky to have a partner at all. A man in a red van will bring you a parcel that will make you very happy and change your private life.
Libra 24 Sep – 23 Oct
A war in another country may make you realise how lucky you are to live in a relatively peaceful country. You will find a credit card in the street and be torn over what to do with it. If you are single, it is a good time to open up the doors and let in someone close to you – nothing of value comes without an element of risk. Try another brand of cereal this month.
SO MUCH MORE TO THE LOCAL LIBRARY
Written by Kitty Lynn
As a child living in a rural area we had a travelling library, which my siblings and I used on Friday evenings. So, books and the library have always been in my life.
Thirty years ago, my parents, my children and I moved to an area where there was a local library which my mother joined us to. I exchanged books for my mum as her health failed and she would no longer go herself. The two librarians there, Carol and Deliah, were always friendly and helpful and my day was always lighter for having been.
Sadly, my mum passed away; my daughter having married, myself and my son lived with my father and I joined the library of my own accord.
Carol and Deliah were moved to central library and various librarians ran the local library. My dad also passed away and I was living on my own with my teenage son and continued to use the library. Sadly, my own health suffered and it has been a mental health issue, but continues to improve.
One day, the new librarians called Dianne and Rita, took over permanently at the local branch. One day, going in to exchange my books, Dianne mentioned going to the local playhouse and out of the blue, asked me if I would like to go with her and Rita. I said ‘yes’ and that kindness altered my life.
I started going regularly with Dianne and Rita, who as I don’t drive and have a problem getting around, picked me up and took me out. We went to cinemas and theatres and they became my closest friends. That was twenty years ago and today though they have retired, we meet up and have lunch with other librarians once a month – one of whom Heather, filled my back yard with strawberry plants in big pots. So, I have a permanent reminder of her kindness.
The new librarian who is also called Dianne, is excellent and as my eyesight is no longer good, she always makes sure I have large print books – for which I am very grateful. There was also a Russian lady there, who was a temporary librarian, and who was also very helpful – we called her Helen as her Russian name was not easy to pronounce.
I have recently been to stay with a lifelong friend in Pontefract which but for the support I have had from my librarian friends, taking me out, I would not have had the confidence to do.
I have introduced another friend of many years standing to the ladies and she also has outings with them now.
So, as I tell my consultant (who I now see once a year), I have read myself better and some good as come out of all this lending: I have more library friends!
So I say support your library as it has so much more to offer you than books.
THE VASTNESS OF SPACE
Written by Eddie Cole
Earth, where we reside, is minuscule in the vastness of space. It is a tiny planet only 24,901 miles in circumference with a solid core surrounded my boiling magma which sometimes comes to the surface in the form of volcanoes. Seventy-one percent of the earth is covered by water. The land and sea sit on plates which move apart and cause earthquakes. It can be a dangerous place but it is where we live and survive.
There are 7.6 billion people on the earth and you’d think that would be enough but it doesn’t stop astronomers hoping to find ‘people’ or ‘life’ elsewhere in the Universe. Are there others ‘out there’? I imagine there probably are but I’ve no idea what shape they will take. ‘Space Programmes’ always show people who look like us – heads, arms, legs. body and amazingly they nearly always manage to speak English!
The difficulty of ever meeting these ‘fellow travellers’ is due to the vastness of space. The nearest star in our galaxy is 4.37 light years away. A ‘light year’ is the distance that light travels in one year. We can get a better understanding of one light year when we learn that one light year equals; 5,878,625,373,183.607731 miles. Multiply that by 4.37 and you have the miles to our nearest star. You do the maths!
So, the chance of anyone visiting us is very remote though some people claim to have seen ‘extra-terrestrials’ and recently the U.S.A spent many millions of dollars on a study of the many sightings which had led to the possibility of extra-terrestrials visiting us.
No proof was found and the study was mothballed. Nevertheless, some think that we have been ‘visited’ by a civilization which would be far ahead of us in their means of travel. Could it be that they came, saw what a mess we are making of our world and decided not to stay! If my memory serves me correctly, then some time ago Stephen Hawking warned at attempting to locate other civilizations who would be very advanced in their technology and may be a danger to us.
A proof of the vastness of space is shown by the Andromeda Galaxy which is in our ‘local group’ which consists of thirty galaxies. Andromeda is the nearest and is ‘hurtling’ towards us at a speed of 86 miles per second. Nevertheless, it will take 4 billion years to reach us! If the Universe is expanding then why is Andromeda coming towards us? I asked one of Stephen Hawking’s boffins who replied that ‘local groups’ are linked together through gravity which leads to mergers becoming inevitable. In 4 billion years’ time our galaxy and Andromeda will come together and make one galaxy nevertheless still much smaller than many other galaxies which our telescopes can see in the universe.
The future of the universe is unknown though at the present time it is expanding. Gravity should slow down the rate of expansion but it isn’t doing so. This due to an unknown force called ‘Dark Energy’ which is forcing the expansion. Scientists know that ‘Dark Energy’ must exist though they have no way of seeing it or proving it.
For all our immense knowledge there seems to be as much we don’t know as we do. 2018 is sure to bring a new understanding. Let’s sit back and enjoy it!
A SIMPLE RECIPE FROM ALISON JONES
Kale, orange and cranberry salad
1 large bunch of Kale
1 orange or 2 Satsuma’s/ Mandarins
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. orange juice
1 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice
Optional, 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1/2 cup dried cranberries (washed & dried)
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
salt and pepper to taste
Remove centre ribs from kale and cut into thin strips. Plunge into a pan of boiling water for 5 mins. Pour into a sieve and rinse with cold water. Drain really well and place in a large bowl.
Zest the orange, then peel and reserve chunks of fruit. Place orange zest, olive oil, orange and lemon juice, (mustard if using) salt and pepper into small jar and mix well. Toast the walnuts in a hot dry pan over medium high heat, stir frequently until they start to brown (about 5 minutes). Add cranberries, sliced orange and walnuts to salad.
Add dressing and toss thoroughly. Let stand at room temp for at least 1 hour.
SECURITY & (ESC)
Written by Michael Blackburn
Apart from the Police, NHS, Ambulance Service and The Armed Services, who look after our national welfare, our personal security is up to us. How good are we at it? Do we understand the ways by which Every Self-Assured Crook (ESC) steals from us and how easy we make it for them? If only the ESC would walk around with prison garb with arrows on and with a swag bag and a ball and chain on their legs, then we would recognise them. But an ESC who steals from us looks and sounds perfectly respectable. What rotters they are and they never miss a chance to take what is not theirs.
In the last fifty years the invention of computers has led to Facebook, Twitter and all sorts of other means of communication and has given the ESC new ways of attacking us and they haven’t been slow in taking advantage.
THE DO’S AND DONT’S OF TELEPHONE CALLS
NEVER give information to telephone callers. They will sound perfectly respectable but beware. Anyone who calls asking for your name and address (which seems safe to give) are gaining your confidence before leading on to asking for more private information. Banks NEVER phone customers. So if the caller claims to be from your bank it is a scam. Put the phone down.
Cold Callers are a nuisance and need dealing with by putting the phone down immediately without listening to their sales talk. These people work on the basis that we are ‘polite’ and will not want to appear ‘impolite’. Don’t fall for it. They have no right to be phoning you and you have no need to give them any of your time. They are more of a nuisance in that they have the habit of phoning at meal times when they expect someone will answer the phone. Give them short shrift.
THE DO’S AND DONT’S OF COMPUTER EMAILS
ESC’s have taken advantage of the internet by sending false emails to try and rob us of our money. A recent email purports to come from an electricity supplier saying that you owe them money and asking you to click on their link. DO NOT fall for this scam. There is every chance that your computer will be ‘taken over’ by the scammer who will ask for large sums of money to unlock the computer.
DELETE IMMEDIATELY all emails where you don’t recognise the sender. The problem is that we are curious and are tempted to have a look at them (we say to ourselves ‘what harm can it do?’) Safer to DELETE.
Emails are received from abroad (probably mostly Africa) from a lady claiming to be a widow whose husband has left thousands of pounds or whatever currency. All she wants is for us to open an account for her to deposit the money and we will receive a share. Easy money? Or easy way of getting involved in Money Laundering. Beware don’t even think of it.
Another scam which may have run its course (it hasn’t happened for some time) is when you receive an email from someone you know, and with their correct email address saying that they are abroad and have had an accident and need money to help them get home. They ask you to ‘telegraph’ money to them. What has happened is that the ECB’s have stolen your friend’s identity and hope you will react by sending money which they will steal. If this occurs a local ‘phone call to your friend will be sufficient to find that he or she is safely at home and the scam has not worked. That scam went on for a long time and it is certain that some money will have been stolen. Beware.
“Hi everyone, to let you know we are on holiday for two weeks”. Such a message is like ‘gold dust’ for ECB’s. When the holiday makers get back they wonder why they have been burgled. They may as well have left the door open! Never leave any messages or clues that you will be away even for a day.
Security to Be Continued.
KATE CULLEN’S GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ
(1) Which is the largest city in China?
(2) What type of creature is a gecko?
(3) What is the name of a stadium where cycle races take place?
(4) The Ponte Vecchio spans the Arno River in which Italian city?
(5) Who was the Roman goddess of flowers?
(6) Which large water bird has a pouch underneath its long bill in which it stores fish?
(7) In what did Cleopatra supposedly bathe to remain beautiful?
(8) In the Christian calendar, what name is given to the twelfth day after Christmas?
(9) Which is the largest island of Japan?
(10) What does the W in George W Bush stand for?
(11) The River Danube flows into which sea?
(12) What is the traditional Chinese practice of inserting needles into selected points in the body called?
(13) Which volcano was responsible for the destruction of Pompeii in 79 AD?
(14) What is the largest city and the financial capital of Switzerland?
(15) Which crop was affected by blight in 1846, leading to the Irish famine?
(16) Orly airport is to the south of which capital city?
(17) What does Robinson Crusoe call the man who becomes his friend and servant in Defoe’s novel?
(18) What part of the human body is studied by a phrenologist?
(19) What type of dog is Snoopy in the cartoon strip ‘Peanuts’?
(20) 1974 heard an album, ‘Tubular Bells’ being played everywhere. By whom was it released?Quiz Answers Lower Down The Page
BRENDA CONDOLL’S VIEWS ON WINTER
Now that the New Year is well and truly on its way, it is cold and damp here in England.
We have to keep warm by having lots of hot soups, cups of tea and coffee etc. We have to wrap up well to keep out the cold and keep our home warm and comfortable.
I usually attend a ‘Friendship Group’ in Leeds which is for the over 55s and which helps me pass the time by playing games like bingo to win prizes, and we share a cup of tea and biscuits. I also go for walks to get a bit of fresh air and the exercise needed to keep my weight down and help my arthritis. I have load of painkillers to control the pain in my hip but what I am really looking forward to is the warmer weather which makes everything seem better!
Second prize in the recent short story competition (£50): FULL ENGLISH
Written by Kate Cullen
“I’ll always, always be troooo yoooo” came the strains from the upstairs window, along with the copious amounts of steam.“For ever and ever I’ll dream of yoooo,My ……..”Thunderous bangs on the wall broke into the reverie.“Stop that bloody racket! Who do you think you are? Mario bloody Lanza?”But Freddy was in full flight and felt compelled to complete the verse in all its romantic glory.“……beautiful angel with eyes so bloooo,My darling, my heart’s desire.”More knocks.“Your eyes ‘ll be bloody black ‘n’ blue if yer don’t shut yer bloody gob!”Silence.Freddy always liked to take advantage of the bathroom acoustics at his weekly bath time. Nothing was spared. To hell with the electricity bill! Top-up after top-up kept the water hovering near the upper limit of a safe temperature. A good half bottle of washing-up liquid brought a further touch of luxury, whilst the ancient loofah once again scratched away at a week’s worth of heaven knows what.“Better call that it for now. Miserable sods, they are! Don’t know a quality tenor when the ‘ear one!”Freddy hoisted the week’s bundle of clothes into the frothy, grey mixture in the bath.“See to that lot later. They can be ‘avin a good soak.”He clambered into his alternative outfit and gave a smile of approval at the image in the mirror.Right. Friday. Full English day, dawned the pleasing prospect on Freddy’s face. With a sprightly step, he headed for ‘Sharon’s Caff ‘at the bottom of the market.“Usual, Freddy love?”“Aye, lass. I’ve found nowt ter come anywhere near it yet!”A few of the regulars were already there, tucking in to their Friday treats. The usual pleasantries were exchanged.“Owt on the grapevine, ‘arold!”“Well, Albert come a cropper last night, so I’ve been told. They rushed ‘im in, Neighbour found ‘im slumped on t’path. Touch an’ go, I believe. We’ll ‘ave ter consult t’paper ter see whether ‘e’s touched or gone!”“’as ‘e any family that yer know of ?”“Aw ‘tye, but hey very rare come to see ‘im. Must be two years since t’ last visit. I know they live down on t’South coast somewhere, but they ‘ll be up like a bloody shot for t’ catchin’s when ‘e goes!Anyway, they’ll be in fer a shock when they see ‘e’s next to nowt for ‘em. It won’t even pay ‘em fer t’petrol up ‘ere. They’ll be pig sick an’ it’ll do ‘em good, selfish sods!”“What’s ‘e done wi‘ it all, then? I always thowt ‘e’d quite a tidy sum tucked away.”“ ‘e ‘ad, but as far as I known ‘e’s given thousands ter th’ animal charities over t’years. ‘e were a great cat lover were Albert, an’ Wishbone were a real comfort to ‘im after Gladys ‘ad gone. ‘e often said there were no way any of ‘i’s lot were ‘avin ‘ a penny. Got rid o’ most of it ‘owever ’e saw fit. Did reyt an’ all! They’d be up as fast as that gret whoppin’ car o’ theirs ‘d carry ‘em!“Aye, sounds like usual carry-on when there’s chance of summat for nowt. Any road, we don’t know as ‘e’s obliged ‘em yet do we!”
“’ow about we call round at ‘is flat ter to see if there’s any sign o’ life, ‘e’d a done t’same fer us – once full English were down, that is.”
After a second mug of tea and twenty minutes for digestive purposes, Freddy and Harold waddled their way to Albert’s ‘sheltered ‘ousin’ compartment ‘as they called it.Nothing appears out of the ordinary.They thought better of looking through the window. It was never a pretty sight at the best of times.A tentative tap began the proceedings.Nothing doing.The sturdier knuckles of Freddy rang a more confident note.“ ’e’s either pretendin’ to be out or down at t’Feathers;’ – if ‘e’s not already dead, that is.”There was an urgency about the third knock, with a hint of impatience and exasperation about it.“Nowt doin’, Freddy. Look through t’window.”Reluctantly, Freddy dragged his feet towards the window. The curtains were open, but nets and layers of grime and grit inside and out made it difficult to see anything.“Can’t mek owt out, ‘arold. Too much muck.”“ere, let me ‘ave a look.”Confident that at least there wasn’t a murder scene behind the glass, Harold strode over and peered through the grime into the grey fog of the room.“Yer reyt, Freddy. No sign o’ life ‘ere. I’ll just ‘ave one more try.
This time, Harold threw caution to the wind and battered on the door until neighbours began peering round the curtains, obviously none too pleased with the commotion going on at number seven.
“What the ‘ell do you two want? Some us like a lie in her know! Fat chance wi’ you two brayin’ on t’ door like demented bloody bailiffs!”Hh
“We’ve come to see ‘ow Albert is. We ’eard ‘e’d got tekken in during’ t’night ‘n’ thowt we’d just check it owt. Did you ‘ear out!”
“Wouldn’t ‘a’ done owt if we ‘ad. Never ‘ad owt ter do with ’im. Looked a weird bugger ter me.”
“O.K. Sorry ter trouble yer.”
“Si yer should be. Now sod off!”
Freddy and Harold took a last glance towards the window, in a vain attempt to satisfy their curiosity.
“There’s nowt else we can do ‘ere ‘arold. Might as well call it a day an’ get on ter th’ ‘ospital. ‘e’s either dead, or alive. One or t’other. Simple as that!
“Well I’d vote fer’ dead’ as things stand, Freddy. Better start at Mortuary an’ work us way through. Come on.”
They waited to cross the road to the bus-stop until a large, white car passed. It slowed down and came to halt outside number seven. It was difficult to see the occupants through tinted windows at the back.
A gentleman emerged to open the back door for what looked like the only passenger.
Eventually, Albert stepped out in all his evening splendour.
“ ‘ow do, chaps! What brings you to these parts?”
In disbelief, Freddy was the first to offer an explanation.
“We ‘eard yer’d bin tekken in durin’ might , Albert, an’ come to investigate. We were off ter t’ Mortuary next!”
“Well, investigate no further!”
“What yer doin’ all donned up wi’ t’fancy gear on then? We thought yer were dead an’ gone.”
“Dozey bugers round ‘ere can’t get even ‘alf a tale right! Out ter t’Club, slap-up meal ‘n’ dancin’ till early hours.
Still keep a few cards up mi sleeve, yer know!
It were probably ‘im upstairs comin’ ‘ome sozzled again. Bloomin’ disgrace ‘e is!”
Now ‘ow about a full English?
We can celebrate my resurrection! ‘op in. We’ll ride in style!
Shaz’s caff Arthur, please.”
“Table for four, Betty love.
Full English all round!”
IS YOUR JOURNEY REALLY NECESSARY?
Written by Simon Dudley
Our normal everyday existence can become boring and we need a break. We are fed up with shopping malls, finding somewhere to park our cars, being crowded into buses and the awful cost of everything.
So, we book ourselves on a cruise ship. These ships are enormous. They are complete with shopping malls which we wanted to avoid. Once on board there is no escape from boring people who we keep bumping in to. You are trapped by the onboard prices, they have you ‘over a barrel’.
Then there are the bus tours. You can avoid them by not taking part but it’s part of the package you have paid for so you go anyway. ‘Always a chance for a snooze’ you think. No there isn’t – what you get is the incessant voice of the tour guide not missing out the slightest details of the boring journey to some equally boring site which you would have been very happy not to know about. We are creature of habit and we find our favourite spot on board for sun-bathing. The next time we go there someone else has taken it and we have start searching all over again. Frustration sets in. “Why have we come on this expensive cruise? We would be better off at home”.
Instead we can arrange a land holiday to some, so called, exotic country. So, you finish up, at great expense, in India where you are dragged along to see the Taj Mahal. But I have seen it many times in books, magazine, newspapers and on TV. Why do I need to spend hundreds of pounds to see it yet again? The same goes for the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, Victoria Falls. The Great Wall of China etc. etc.
I’ve got my back garden. It’s not too big, it’s not too small it is a perfect size. It contains all I need to see and I can do so without the expense of a cruise or a holiday in India or elsewhere.
There’s no place like home!
Third prize in our recent short story competition (£25): OLD-FASHIONED TEA
Written by Cathy Bryant
“They won’t say a word, Chief,” said my sergeant. “They just look at me sort of pained, with their lips pursed.”
We looked at the video of the interview. Jack asked his questions, and the two sweet old ladies – sweet old ladies who had apparently murdered at least a dozen people – said nothing, any more than they had when Sita, the WPC, had spoken to them.
One thing that puzzled me was that I had eaten and drunk at their teashop several times, without coming to any kind of harm. It was so restful, with its old-fashioned decor and simple, homely food.
“That scone was delicious,” I’d said to the blue-rinsed owner – Evangeline, as I now knew her to be.
She smiled, showing whiskery dimples, and patted the neat curls of her indigo-ish hair.
“Why thank you,” she said. “Did you hear that, Emmy?”
“I certainly did! I baked those scones this morning,” smiled Evangeline’s sister, a tiny, snowy-haired woman called Emmeline, who was the other half of the business.
“Would you like some more tea, Sir?”
“I’m William. I don’t really have time, but…yes please! That’s be lovely.”
They beamed, and promised to bring me my drink. It arrived in a blue-and-white pot with matching cup and saucer, milk jug and hot water jug, all on a tray with a lace doily.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” cried Emmeline. “I forgot the sugar!”
Her hands flew to her powdery face in horror.
“That’s quite all right. I’m trying to give it up, anyway. Please don’t trouble,” I said.
If the station staff had seen this exchange, they would have fainted. My usual reply to an irritation was, “Cut the drama and don’t make excuses.” And my usual tipple was strong coffee, with or without a tot of whisky.
But there was something about the teashop that encouraged old-fashioned behaviour, to match the decor.
I poured out the excellent tea, and enjoyed the heavy oak furniture and the lack of music. The only sounds were the tinkling of spoons and cups, and a susurrus of background conversation.
It was quite a contrast to police work, which is probably why I went back from time to time.
Until the sisters were arrested on multiple counts of murder, of course. All very ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’. But why? Why had they done it?
Twelve people dead. One solicitor, one student, a pensioner, a married couple….there seemed to be no link between the victims at all. I had known one of them slightly: Kathy Brown, a young widow with three small children. She was constantly tired, which was understandable, and had retreated into a world of sadness since her husband died. She looked after her children mechanically and that was that. The last time I’d seen her had been at a supermarket. She had bumped into me and yet I had apologised to her, the way my generation does apologise. She just gave a thin smile and walked on. I didn’t blame her; and now those children were orphans.
Twelve people dead, all poisoned, and the poison was traced back to the teashop. At first police were looking for accidents or contaminants or signs of a break-in. But no, the sweet little old ladies were the only suspects, really.
Now I sighed, and started watching the interview videos again. There, with Sita, they had seemed quite obliging, smiling nervously, and then suddenly they had clammed up.
I watched the scene over and over again. Sita offered them a coffee, which they refused politely. Then she started the tape and began to read them the rights and warnings.
And now they were frosty and disapproving. Something had changed. But what? And did it have anything to do with the murders?
An hour later, I got it. I realised, too, why I had been spared.
I went to see them.
Their faces lit up at the sight of me.
“Mr William! Why hello!”
“Hello, Miss Evangeline, Miss Emmeline,” I said. “Do you mind if I sit down?”
“Not at all!” and “Please do!” they said, and we all sat together and smiled as if we were having afternoon tea in a parlour. I could almost feel an antimacassar against the back of my head.
“My dear ladies,” I said, “I’m so sorry that you’re going through this nasty experience. Please rest assured that I’m doing everything that I can to speed the process up.”
Like getting them to talk, but I wasn’t going to mention that.
They smiled bravely.
I looked disdainfully at the recording device.
“You know, by law I have to record this,” I said. “It really isn’t very nice, and I can barely work the machine, but would you be so generous as to allow it, please?”
“Of course, William,” they cooed.
I pressed the button.
“Thank you, ladies. You are being very kind. Now, the officer explained your rights and so on, didn’t she?”
It was clipped, and the smiles had vanished.
“I’m so sorry. It isn’t at all pleasant.”
“That’s quite all right, William. We know that it isn’t your fault.”
I paused, working out how to phrase what I had to say.
“I wish that the procedure was more – more – well-mannered,” I said. “Good manners are so important, aren’t they?”
“I couldn’t agree more!”
“Nor could I, William dear!”
I leaned forward confidentially, as if the whole thing were not being filmed and recorded.
“I’ve ordered a pot of tea and some scones,” I said. “Though they won’t be up to your standard, of course.”
“Thank you, William. How kind!”
“It’s my pleasure. In the meantime, while we wait, would you mind awfully if I asked you a question on a rather delicate matter?”
Courtesy, and their sense that I understood them, dictated their reply.
“That’s quite all right, William. Please do.”
“Many thanks, ladies. Now – would you be so good as to explain – what did you dislike about Kathy Brown and the others?”
Evangeline leaned forward and gave the answer I expected.
“She didn’t say please or thank you. Not even once!”
“They all had such dreadful manners,” added Emmeline. “We were quite shocked.”
As shocked as they had been at Sita, reading out the harsh and threatening warnings, no doubt.
And for a moment – before I did my job – I found myself shaking my head sorrowfully, as they shook theirs, saddened by the decline in modern manners.
KATE CULLEN’S DESERT ISLAND DISCS
|When I fall in love (Nat King Cole)||It was the first record I ever bought. The cello at the beginning is just beautiful and Nat King Cole has the loveliest voice I’ve ever heard.|
(Nat King Cole)
|Beautiful voice, beautiful words which have been most consoling to me in the sadder times of life.|
(Ralph Vaughan music/ William Barnes words/ Sung by John Mc Cormack)
|So English, with a lovely philosophy i.e. the lines: “Let other folk make money faster, in the air of dark roomed towns” etc, leading to the rejoicing of the narrator’s freedom.|
(Norman Wisdom/ Joyce
|I love Norman Wisdom’s character with the flat cap, swaggering walk, a jacket too small fastened with one button and his tripping up routine . A little man trying and failing to be a big man, but all the more loveable for it. Try and keep a straight face whilst listening to this. Magic!|
|Impromptu in A flat Opus
90 No 4
|The wonderful music teacher, Bertha Greenwood, played this before morning assembly sometimes. She was a marvellous pianist and taught me a love of music for life.|
|Chopin’s Piano Concerto
(Conducted by A
And played by an 87 years old Arthur Rubenstein.
|Because music doesn’t come more beautiful than this. Beyond this world.|
A LOVELY STORY FROM AMERICA: QUICK SILVER HOLDS A PROMISE
Written by Alexander Duncan
There is quick silver filled with promises that are as empty as a dry glass. It is a strange image caught between a bright day filled with the joyous spirit of life and the bleakness of demise. My imagination is playing games with me. This is not a usual occurrence. But, I have known it to happen from time to time. And I am on the Staten Island Ferry; a place where my imagination is most susceptible to odd fancies running from talking birds, to sail boats appearing out of the mist, and whispers that I can’t quite make out. On that day, I heard a soft voice murmur in my ear, “Do not lose the epiphany.” There was a pause, and then for a second time a husky female voice whispered, “Do not lose the epiphany.”
The voice seemed to vibrate in my head. Faded memories flickered and came into focus. A school boy lost in endless day dreams wanders down the well-lit hallway of a city high school. He was quite similar to a butterfly floating from flower to flower. He took in the sight and scent of his surroundings, and gave little thought to what it might or could mean. However, underneath – deep in the recesses of his mind – he was absorbing and filing away each moment that affected his being. For a great many people life is a guessing game. The guessing game for our butterfly boy was about to end.
That day as in a dream, he wandered – and wandered is the correct description. Our butterfly boy was floating on a cloud of dreams. Considering his cloudy disposition, it is ironic that he was on his way to an algebra class. In algebra everything is logical and absolutely clear. Certainly, there is no space for cloudy.
I was the school boy lost in the clouds, and on that day a door loomed in front of me. I didn’t want to enter. Did I have to listen to that gray dry mouthed teacher drone on and on? His weedy flat voice sounded like a nail scrapping across the chalk board. The sound sent a quiver down my spine. The second I entered his classroom, I wanted to turn and exit, and run down the hallway as fast as I could. Somewhere, there must be a haven where I could escape.
I walked past the desk of the flat voiced gray teacher, and sat down slowly at my desk near the front window. Sitting in my desk, I was very still. His monotonous voice bore into my psyche. The tension in my body and mind was building into a desire to a scream. Closing my eyes for a few seconds I breathed and attempted to relax. I was partially successful.
Nonetheless, his voice droned on with an insistent monotony. Turning away from him was automatic. No thought was given to whether my action was rude. It certainly was, and it was inappropriate. Especially, considering that I was a student in his class. Supposedly, I was learning algebra. However, there was a problem. Algebra gave me a headache, and my teacher bored me out of my wits. So, I stared out the windows.
It was then that I had the epiphany, or was it a visitation. The word doesn’t matter – it was definitely a turning point. Life was never the same after that day. More accurately – life was never the same after that moment. While looking down at the lawn and the steps leading into the cafeteria, I was captured in a vortex of magic. How else can I describe what happened, except as magic? The landscape became wavy. How can I describe this phenomena? It was definitely a phenomena. It was as though the landscape – the lawn and concrete stairs – were floating on water. And I felt uplifted – as though I were gliding with wide spread wings, and observing the earth below. I felt light and removed. The reality
surrounding me had no meaning. My world was focused entirely on the shifting world outside the window. And then I heard a whisper – a husky female whisper.
I had the urge to reply, but I didn’t. I was transfixed by a vision, and stunned into silence. My ear was filled with whispers, and moments flashed in my mind. “You know, you know,” she whispered insistently. I quivered slightly.
A montage of visual sensation and emotions reeled across the window of my mind. I saw and felt the heat of bright lights. The lights dazzled me with tints of red, yellow, and blue. I crossed from one pool of light to another and another. And a wave of rustled emotion lifted me up to the light, and I floated weightless above the lawn. Joy filled my whole body. I was in a state of ecstasy. A montage of theatrical scenes of color and action filled my vision. I crossed a stage, brandished a large sword, and cried out to the rafters. The experience was overwhelming. The universe of the stage was calling me. The husky female voice whispered insistently, “you know, you know.” And, I did know.
And thus the world of the stage – the theater – became my life.
Although I was quite disoriented, I slowly returned to a normal state. Turning my head, I could not help but notice the gray voiced teacher staring at me intently. His expression was markedly disapproving. I didn’t care – for I had received a revelation.
I fixed a slight smile on my face and pretended to listen to the grey voiced teacher. As my algebra instructor droned on, my smile broadened. I couldn’t help myself, for now I carried a sacred secret within my soul. That day changed my life. I was no longer the cloudy boy. I had begun an exciting journey to discover the nuances of living. I had begun to ask why? Why was this happening? Why did it happen? What are or where the surrounding circumstances? The possibilities contained in creating an artificial world that could be molded into something more compelling than everyday life – took hold.
When I left algebra class, I was flying with the wind. I felt powerful. My destination was tightly held within the circumference of my hands.
I walked with a quick bounce in my step to my next class, which ironically was drama. I had only recently enrolled, and I couldn’t wait to arrive. Amazing. Or maybe, it wasn’t so amazing. Years before, as a young boy, I was taking a drama class at a church. Although my memory of that is dim, I do remember one particular day. Our instructor set a scene where I was to a guard at a palace. Behind me in the palace were various high functionaries and royalty attending a social engagement. It was a special event in which only the elite were invited. And certainly, as the guard I was very aware of this situation. No one was going to pass me, and no one did. Numerous times various members of the rabble tried to pass me, and I did not allow it.
“No you are not among the listed,” I said.
The children in back of me giggled, the children in front of me giggled, but I did not giggle.
Clearly our instructor was unnerved, and stopped the scene. He cleared his throat and squeezed his hands.
“Tom is obviously the only one who understands what is going on.”
He looked over the room, and said very slowly, “Each of you is part of a pretend world. And when you are in that world, that world should be more real than the world you live in. Tom was focused on one act – making sure that you are on his list. If you are not – he will do everything he can to make sure that you – an interloper – do not enter the palace.
With the exception of Tom, each of you failed to enter this realm. This sphere is a place of magic. When you step on a stage – you are there to create magic.
That long-ago boyhood memory is always with me. It is part of my being. It was the first indication of an artistic bent. This is the moment when I became aware of who I am. Undoubtedly, the seed was planted long ago – probably at birth. Nonetheless, this was that special moment. I had little idea of where this might lead. But the pattern of my life was already set. So, there was no doubt that I was about to find out.
On the day of the vision, my emotions were heightened. When I walked into the drama class. I was aware of everything that surrounded me. The light sifting through the window seemed to dance. Our instructor had her own table. The classroom was arranged in a semi-circle to create an informality – an intimacy. Certainly, the atmosphere was open and encouraged collaboration between the participants. I do not remember the specifics of that day, it was after all, a long time ago.
I do remember – that after the class that my instructor motioned to me. I walked toward her, and we shared a smile that was filled with secrets. There was a moment of silence – then she motioned with her hand.
“Sit down Tom”, she said to me with a surprising gentleness. It was a surprising because she was rather rough in manner. Her presence was austere, and there was something boyish in her appearance. This was true even though she was in her mid-forties.
There was a moment of quiet. She smiled and nodded her head. Her tenderness amazed me. It was unexpected. I was suspicious of why she would extend herself towards me, I found her behavior reassuring.
She smiled in a way that was almost a shared secret, and said, “I’ve been watching you.”
“Oh,” I replied. I didn’t know what to say. Why would she watch me?
“You’re a gifted performer. You have a gift for the stage – for theater. When we do a scene in class, you become lost in the scene. You vanish and become someone else. You enter a different world, which is what the theater is about. Very few have this capacity – to vanish from reality. Coupled with a pleasing appearance – and a supple voice.
She paused for a moment. I think she was looking for a reaction. But, I didn’t know how to react. It seemed that the earth had shifted under my feet, and that it was necessary to renegotiate my equilibrium. I was on a new path, and obviously – I had no idea where this path would lead me.
“I think you should try something,” she said while looking intently into my eyes. Her voice startled me. For a moment, I had entered my private world and was far removed from the concerns of this classroom. “Tom, did you hear me?”
“Yes. It’s been a very strange day. Everything seems to come back to this class.”
“What does that mean – everything comes back to this class?”
“No, I can’t explain,” I said apprehensively. For I couldn’t tell her about my vision. I was embarrassed.
She smiled in an understanding way. On some level, she understood what was happening. This was true even though – neither one of us could articulate this understanding.
There was a long pause before she said, “maybe you should imagine an event – something you can – mold into a scene. Do you think you could do that?”
“Yes,” I answered with great confidence – a confidence that surprised me.
She looked at me with piercing blue eyes and smiled. And while smiling, she said, “You know, don’t you?” “Yes, I know,” I replied.
I spoke out of instinct. I knew in my bones that I had the makings of an artist. And I knew – that she had the same understanding. She saw into my soul.
My instructor continued, “its instinct – an instinct that can be developed further. But if it is not there at the beginning – nothing in the world can put it there. Nothing. You have a highly developed instinct. It is a gift. What you do with it is up to you. There was a long pause. She smiled at me, and I looked down and away. Finally, she spoke – “bring me back something. Let me know when you’re ready.”
“Yes —,” I replied, and ambled out into the hallway.
That evening at supper, I was unnaturally quiet. Father looked at me quizzically. My brother shrugged his shoulders, and decided that I was having a severe case of day-dreamitis. My little sister thought I was a little peculiar anyway—so, whatever I did was normal big brother behavior. Only my mother was concerned – concerned in that sense that something unusual was happening. She wondered what that unusual something was. Nonetheless, she was certain that it was positive. And then she smiled, and she smiled as though we shared a very sweet secret. And I returned her smile.
“I’m going downstairs. My drama teacher wants me—to create a scene—to play.”
“Yes, it is.”
“That she believes in you.”
I got up slowly and moved away from the table. As I walked to the basement stairs, I could feel their staring at me with intense curiosity. I edged my way downstairs and into the party room.
When I entered the party room, I felt elated because I own this space. I may not have articulated that exact thought. But, it does express how I felt.
There was a small desk against the wall. Inside the desk was a notebook, on which I often random thoughts and observations. I pulled the notebook out and turned to an empty page. Staring at the white sheet with pale blue lines, I began to envision myself in a cell. It was frightening. I was alone, and the cell was dark and arid.
A stream of conscious scene evolved:
Trapped in a cell – angry and afraid – disoriented. Organically, the scene grows. I am guided by an inner demon that questions and questions – why am I here? How can I get out? I feel like clawing my way through the bars, but I know this cannot be done. It would be a futile gesture, in which I would play a clown. Do I want to play the clown? No. It would be better to howl at the moon – if I could find
the moon. Perhaps the moon would free me? After all – there is something mystical about the moon.
Obviously, I don’t remember exactly what I wrote. This writing of my youth vanished into a drawer long age, and most likely the beetles devoured paper and my boyhood dreams. Nonetheless – that day I stepped deeply into the realm of my imagination, and to this day I continue to explore and create visions molded into moments.
The next day I informed my instructor that I was ready – and when the moment arrived every distraction vanished, and my space took on a new reality. I found myself in jail, and I wondered how I would escape. My whole being screamed – “let me out, let me out.” I dropped to my knees in despair. I am never to leave this prison. And then, she appeared – my angel. She opened the prison gate and I walked into freedom. I was stunned. I could not speak. And yet, I had in the grasp of my hand a chance for a new day. I was free.
On the day I performed my scene, I was as nervous as a jitter bug, and in the end as quiet as still water before a storm. And I was in control of a world I created. Every turn, every gesture, and utterance guided me further and further into the nuances of this world. The experience was intoxicating. When my performance ended I felt absolutely shattered.
And yet, I had gained. I had gained enormous profit from that performance. I leapt beyond day-to-day reality into the magical world of the imagination. I had discovered a gift. No—it wasn’t a gift of gold or silver, or any material wealth that you could attach an economic value. It was a wealth contained in the soul. And as such – it’s value could not be measured. And yet – this gift was mine, and is mine, and always will be mine.
Tears cross my face, as I gaze across the bay. There is a haze hovering over the water, and floating above the mist – she is whispering in a hoarse women’s voice – “Remember, remember.” Yes, I will remember. I will not forget, ever.
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ANOTHER FUN QUIZ FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH
(1) In which country is Auschwitz situated?
(2) How many metres are in a kilometre?
(3) Who managed Chelsea F.C. when they won the Premiership in 2016 – 2017?
(4) Where are the Maldives?
(5) Who was leader of Italy during the Second World War?
(6) Who played the lead male role in the American comedy ‘King of Queens’?
(7) When did The Simpsons first air on American T.V.?
(8) What are the two elements in H20?
(9) Where do Kia cars come from?
(10) Who wrote the song ‘My Way’?
(11) What is the official currency of Jamaica?
(12) Who was the lead singer of Led Zeppelin?
(13) What is a ‘Kir’?
(14) What is the capital of Hungary?
(15) Where was the singer-songwriter Paul Simon born?
(16) What is a ‘Mullet’?
(17) Which footballer was nicknamed ‘The White Feather’?
(18) What is a Mocha?
(19) What is 20 08 in the 12 hour clock?
(20) Who wrote the song ‘Sweet Caroline’?Answers in the March 2018 FTHM Edition: (remove answers below)(1) Poland (2) 1,000 (3) Antonio Conte (4) Indian Ocean (5) Benito Mussolini (6) Kevin James (7) December 17th 1989 (“Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire”) (8) Hydrogen and Oxygen (9) South Korea – founded in 1944 but now a subsidiary of Hyandai-Kia Automobile Group (10) Paul Anka/Jacques Revaux (11) Jamaican dollar (12) Robert Plant (13) A French cocktail made with crème de cassis and white wine (14) Budapest (15) Newark, New Jersey, US. (16) haircut (17) Fabrizio Ravanelli (18) chocolate-flavoured variant of caffe latte (19) 8 08 pm (20) Neil Diamond